Monday, May 2, 2011

Ignorance is Bliss

How long has it been? I know it's been over a year since I've posted anything on here, and I'm sure that nobody will probably even read this since people stopped following this page a long time ago. But for those of you who happen to see this who have followed: Here is an update.

I'm not even going to begin to go through my previous posts and see where I left off, so I'm just going to wing this. I deployed to Afghanistan, and I did my duty, and now it's over. I will be heading home within the next few days and I couldn't be happier than I am now. I spent a year in this shit hole that they call a "Country" and I saw some cool stuff, and a lot of stuff I never want to see again (mostly the people who live here.) I was here when they caught and killed Bin Laden, and now it's time to go home and enjoy some of the finer things in life. I got married a while back and I'm going home to spend some much needed time with my woman and drink some of that good ole' German beer. We will be spending our leave in Athens Greece and doing pretty much nothing but enjoying ourselves.

I am going to stop there for now, I'm already getting tired of hearing myself talk. I might pick back up sometime soon, maybe when I'm home. I just decided to log back in and check this old site out and write a little something. If I feel the desire to pick it back up I will, or I might just let it die and carry on living life.


-SPC Zaleuke

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Into the Unknown

As promised, here is the link to my new blog that I will be writing in from now on. I hope you all enjoy. Please feel free to comment when ever. 

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My happy ending (minus the sexual gratification)

 Today is Sunday October 12th and I am writing from the comforts of my home in Vero Beach Florida. As you can guess, I did in fact graduate (as expected lol) on October 9th from Ft. Benning and am now a full fledged Army Infantry Soldier. Here is what has happened over the last few days:
I re-read my entry on October 3rd a few minutes ago and it made me laugh a little. At the time when I wrote that entry, I was extremely frustrated and all I wanted to do was get the Hell out of there and back to my home in Florida. The Drill Sergeants on Sand Hill really know how to get under a person's skin and make them feel truly miserable at times. No matter how accomplished someone might feel, they will step in and knock you off of your pedestal where you will land backwards on your ass and feel as if you are lower than shit. That is exactly what they did to us over the past few days. After completing FTX and receiving our cross rifles, we in Delta Company 1-50 felt as if we had truly accomplished something and were on top of the world. We go back to our barracks and we were all in the mindset that we were actually done with all of our training and didn't have to put up with anymore bullshit from anyone. I mean, Hell...The meanest Drill Sergeants came up to me and shook my hand and congratulated me on a job well done and told us "Welcome to the Infantry Soldier." You can see why someone would think, " Hey...I've done it...They wont treat me like shit anymore. I'm a soldier now, and all I need to do now is turn in my shit now and head home." ....Not the case.
There are five phases that make up Infantry OSUT (One Station Unit Training) and those include: Red, White, Blue, Gold, and Black phase. Typically speaking Red phase is the worst phase because they treat us like we are lower than dirt. From what you read online, they make it seem like things will gradually get better and you will be treated better once you advance in the phases. As much as a soldier would like to believe that, it simply was not the case for us. We were shot back to red phase once we completed FTX. The only tasks we really had to do was complete our 5 mile Eagle run and turn in all of our TA-50, and we were good as gold and ready to graduate. As easy as that sounds, the Drill Sergeants made those last two weeks a living Hell for all of us- Especially the last 48 hours before our departure and graduation. 
Thursday October 8th, we had our turning blue ceremony, and it was probably one of the proudest moments of my military career so far, and for good reason. On that day I was officially dubbed an Infantry Soldier (among many of my peers) in front of hundreds of people. We were lined up around the corner for all of the crowds anxiously awaiting the ceremony. We were given the order to march, and as soon as we started marching around the corner we could hear the sounds of M240 Bravo's being fired off in the distance and simulator grenades going off in almost all directions. As we rounded the corner we marched through what seemed like an endless tunnel of smoke which was from the numerous smoke grenades that were set off. As our company made our way through the smoke, suddenly we saw the crowd of people which were made up of our friends family and loved ones. We all lined up on the street facing everyone and stood at parade rest and attention as the ceremony began to take place. When the time came for our First Sergeant to instruct our Drill Sergeants to award his soldiers their blue chords, I could feel my stomach begin to twist in knots. This was the moment I have been waiting for since I signed my contract, I was about to become an infantry soldier. As you all probably have noticed, my father and I are extremely close and I couldn't think of anyone better to pin my blue chord on my shoulder than my best friend and father. Before the ceremony even took place, I acquired an extra set of gold cross rifles, and I kept it in my right pocket. When my father stepped forward out of the crowed to see me for the first time, I was standing at the position of attention. I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, and handed him my blue chord which he placed on my right shoulder. My blue chord was in my right pocket, so when I handed it to him, I also grabbed that set of extra cross rifles and held it in my hand. After he pinned my blue chord on me, he and I shook hands. As we shook hands, I secretly passed off that set of cross rifles to my father as a gift. I worked my ass off to earn my cross rifles, and I honestly don't think I could have gotten them without the moral support of my father. That being said, I awarded him a set of cross rifles as somewhat of a thank you for everything he has done for me over the years. He is a good father, and one that any guy could be proud to call "Dad." My father wrote to me in a letter during the beginning of the cycle and told me that he would be with me every step of the way. When times were tough, I reached deep down inside and remembered that he was running every mile, doing every push up and sit up, and rucking every step along side me despite him not actually being there. That alone got me through the toughest days of training. If I earned my cross my eyes, he earned his too. 
Upon arrival back at base after family day was over, Delta company seemed to be hit in the face with a force that can only be described as "The wrath of Drill Sergeant B." We were told that a different Drill Sergeant would be on duty that night, so we were anticipating a calm night and also a full nights sleep. That certainly was not the case because when we arrived back to formation in our Class A's, we were immediately told to get down in the front lean and rest position for some unknown reason. I immediately thought to myself, "really? Is this actually happening right now? All I want to do is go upstairs, get changed and go to sleep." Drill Sergeant "B" seemed to have some wild hair up his ass and he planned on making our last night a living Hell. We were instructed to go upstairs and conduct bay maintenance, and as we went up to our bay, the minute we walked through the door, the power went out. My immediate thought was, "How the Hell am I going to get this bay cleaned to his standards if I cant see two feet in front of my face?" What I forgot to mention in previous letters is that I was promoted to Assistant Platoon guide, and when our Platoon guide had left for good (because he was prior service) I became the Platoon guide. So it was my job to ensure that everything was done properly or else there would be Hell to pay. At 10:30pm, we all had to make a random phone call to our parents to come back to base and pick up all of our shit because we were told that we all had too much luggage and not all of it would be taken to where it needed to go and therefor would be either left behind or stolen. Awesome... So after I had my shit picked up, I was told that he would be conducting a bay inspection at 1am. Wake up was scheduled for 4am. This meant that we would only be getting three hours of sleep before graduation. Long story short, we only got about an hour or so of sleep before we had to wake up and head off to the graduation field. Needless to say, I wasn't a very happy camper. All I could think of was that It was our last night, and to try to stay positive and make the best out of a shitty situation. 
We woke up, got dressed and boarded the buses that would take us to the NIM (national infantry museum) which was where graduation would be conducted. We arrived at 5am and we were scheduled to graduate at 10 am, so we spent about 5 hours sitting around doing absolutely nothing. The Army really lives up to it's "Hurry up and wait" reputation. Finally the ceremony began and we did our thing and before I knew it I was standing before my Drill Sergeant and hearing him say the words "Dismissed." I immediately directed my attention to finding my father who was already walking towards me and when I found him, he gave me a big hug and a handshake and said to me, "Look at what you've done...look at what you've done." I could see that he too was extremely proud of what I had accomplished, and that made me feel good deep down inside. You have to remember, me joining the Army wasn't really the kind of thing anybody expected from me. So me actually doing something like this was a big shock to a lot of people, so actually graduating and completing something like this was indeed a pretty big accomplishment for me. So for all of those people who doubted me and thought I couldn't do it, you can kiss my ass. 
After the ceremony was complete, I did exactly what I said I was going to do in my last letter. I rushed out to the car with all of my friends, got changed into civilian clothing and headed straight to Hooters where I began my day/night of intoxication. That first sip of beer in over four months was really one to remember. As Will Ferrell said in the movie Old School, "Once it hits your lips....It's so good! It's so good!" After lunch and a lot of beer, I made my way to the tattoo parlor and got a few tattoos that I had been wanting. I got my collar bone finished and I also got a tattoo on my lower leg that memorialized my grandmother. My sister and I both got the same tattoo, but instead of having the exact same ones, we got slightly different ones and in different places but mainly the same concept and idea. My sister and I were both very close to my grandma, and when she passed away a few months ago, we both decided that we'd get a little something to remember her by. I'm pretty big into tattoos anyways as i've said before, and I have quite a few of them, but this one in particular means a great deal to me. As I stated in previous entries, I spoke to my grandmother quite a bit when times were tough and at times it seemed as if she heard me and leant a helping hand, thus getting me though some of the roughest times of basic training. I truly believe she was watching over me and helped me out. She passed away before I decided to join the Army, and I think she would be very proud of me for what I've accomplished. As much as the cross rifles on my shoulder are dedicated to my father, they are also dedicated to my grandmother. I hope she is looking down on me right now smiling and proud. 
The feeling of pulling away from Ft. Benning to head home to Florida was one that I cant even describe. It was as if i've been in prison for the past 4 months and I was out on parol. My father and I drove the 8 hour drive back to our home town of Vero Beach and talked the entire way about anything and everything. When I got home, I was greeted by the loving face of my other best friend- my Golden Retriever puppy Raleigh. You would swear that he hadn't seen me in years by the way he reacted. He gave me his version of a big hug and seemed to have said, "Welcome home buddy, it's sure good to see you." I then realized...I'm home...I'm not dreaming, I am actually home! I unpacked all of my stuff and hopped on my motorcycle and went for a long ride. Just like any happy ending book you read as a child, where this story began is exactly where it ends. I rode my bike to the beach and watched the sunset just like I did the day before I shipped off to basic training. I sat on the boardwalk and appreciated the freedom of watching the waves crash upon the beach and the seagulls and sandpipers play in the sand. I remember thinking of the song written by one of my favorite artists Tim Armstrong from the band Rancid which I have quoted numerous times before, especially that day on the beach before I left. 
"Well Earthquakes shake and fires take, from this view I've seen it all. I've tasted smoke as the hills burned, i've watched the freeway fall. When there's nothing to say, just look into the Bay, you know some things they just feel right. Another East Bay night,'s gonna be alright."
  I thought to myself,"Yeah..I am home. I am finally home. All of the lonely nights laying in my bed at Ft. Benning dreaming of my return has finally became a reality. I am home. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I wouldn't trade that experience for the world, despite how incredibly shitty it was at times. It all becomes irrelevant once you're done and back at home where you are truly happy. This story has a happy ending, and I couldn't be more satisfied with that if I tried. Despite me stating over and over again in this letter that I have "accomplished something," I want to make it known that deep down, I haven't yet really done anything yet. In my mind, by me graduating basic training, I have only given myself an opportunity. I have only accomplished the fact that I am now given the opportunity to become a great soldier. Basic Training is the easy part. It is now up to me to go out and make something of myself utilizing the training that I have been given, and with some hard work and determination I can possibly become a great soldier who does his job effectively and in return I can keep my battle buddies safe as well as myself when the shit hits the fan. 
I know I had said before that this would be my last entry in this blog, and in some ways that statement is true. I have been receiving countless emails, messages, and comments from people I don't even know telling me how much they enjoy reading about my daily experiences and the things that I have to say. I must admit it is all a bit overwhelming to think that people actually rely on me and my writings to help give them a little peace. So many people tell me that they have a soldier who is currently going through training and this blog helps them understand what they are, or will be going through and by reading it they feel as if they are actually there or can picture their soldier doing the same things I have done. This was never the intentions of this blog, rather it was for my friends and family to have a way to stay connected with me while I was away. That being said, I actually enjoy writing about my day and experiences in the Army, and I after some thought and encouragement by readers, I have decided to continue writing. I plan on starting another blog that will pick up right where this one left off an follow me through my first duty station in Germany and possibly through my first deployment. If people enjoy reading this crap, and I enjoy writing it, then who am I to just end it? I will write until I no longer have anything else to say or until people no longer care to read what I have to say. Since this blog is only about my life in Army Basic Training, this will be my last post on this particular blog. I will start another one on this site and I will post the link to it shortly so that you all will be able to continue reading about my adventures in the United States Army. Who knows...maybe one day I will write a book similar to how Colby Buzzell wrote his. Only time and experience will tell. 

Stay tuned, I am not going anywhere anytime soon.

-PFC Zaleuke

PS: I encourage all of you to feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you might have dealing with the Army, or to just leave some feedback. You can reach me by posting a comment on the blog or by myspace or facebook.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October 7th

I finally have a sense of completion as far as this basic training and AIT shit goes. We are finally done as of right now. This includes turning in all of our gear, weapons, practicing for graduation and turning blue ceremonies, etc. Tomorrow is our turning blue ceremony and also family day, and Friday is graduation. These past few days have sucked pretty bad, and the Drill Sergeants are staying on our ass right up to the moment we leave this Hell hole. Whatever.. 
Since I am the tallest soldier in our platoon (6'4) I will be up front next to the D.S for both the T.B. Ceremony and graduation due to the fact that we line up tallest to shortest. My family should be pretty happy with that and have no complaints since they'll get to see me easily rather than have to search for me in a group of 400 soldiers. It wouldn't be hard anyways, all they would have to do is look for the most attractive soldier on the field.  We all got high and tight haircuts again today, so I am no longer sporting the skinhead look with combat boots. I always thought I pulled that off pretty well, it reminded me of a soccer hooligan.
I am going to miss this place so, I cant even keep a straight face while writing that sentence. There is not one damn thing I'm going to miss about Sand Hill. I loath this establishment in every possible way. We have been commanded to "Present Arms so many times here, I think I'll command myself to "Present Finger" as I pull away. I am going to miss my Senior Drill Sergeant though. That guy is cool as shit and also an all around good guy. 
Tomorrow is going to be a fun day for me. I get to see people I haven't seen in months, and I cant wait. Friday will be even better because it will include lots of celebratory Guinness beers and a few tattoos......Mmmmmm.
Alright, I've got more packing and shit to do. I'll write again about graduation and all of the shenanigans that were involved once I get back home to FLA and get settled and have a day or two to rest. So hold tight, it will be my last entry and I'll try to make it a good one. 

-PFC Zaleuke

October 3rd

Today I have a headache, and I'm stressed out. I am completely finished with everything here, and they are still messing around and fucking with us because they too seem to be bored. I have four days and a wake- up until I get to see my family and five days until I actually graduate. All I want to do is leave this place and go home, but the days seem to drag on as if they will never end. Lately I feel like a zombie, probably because I am purposely removing myself from everything mentally to where it is almost like I am not even here at all. At least when we were training, the days would go by faster because we were busy, but now they last forever. Four more days...four more days.
Yesterday morning we had our five mile "Eagle Run" which was surprisingly easy. I just ran, and I was so out of it and zoned out that I was finished before I even realized I was spacing out. I'm not depressed, rather just fed up with all of the bullshit and ready to get the Hell out of here. I finished my book already, so I've got nothing to help pass the time anymore. To make things even more annoying is that we are now allowed to have our Ipods and MP3 players. The problem with that is our Drill Sergeant told us to give our personal shit to our families when we saw them a few weeks ago, which I did. Among my personal belongings was my Ipod...Awesome. 
I've been hearing a lot of things about how most units in Germany will be deploying in November, so there is a good chance I'll be heading to Afghanistan around then, or depending on when they would send me to meet up with my unit. Things in Afghanistan are heading up from what I hear, so I could be in for some interesting times in the near future. 
My friends from college are driving down to see me graduate on Friday, and I have some fun shit planned out. The second they allow me to leave I am getting the Hell out of there and begin drinking immediately. It's always a good day when you can start drinking before noon. On top of all of that, I am probably more excited to just drive away from Ft. Benning and head down to Florida where I can relax on my beach with my puppy and ride my motorcycle. Key word in that sentence is Relax. Damn right "Mah Focker."

-PFC Zaleuke

Friday, October 2, 2009

September 29th, 2009

I really am loving life right now. This is the first time I have been almost stress free since I’ve been here at Ft. Benning. Since we finished FTX, life has been pretty good for us. We are being treated fairly well, being called soldiers, and most of all relaxing. We have spent the last few days cleaning all of our TA-50 which is the fancy name for all of the issued gear we received. Everything needs to be spotless by the time we turn it all in on Thursday. So we have been working pretty hard to get it all done. Being that I am not a procrastinator, I finished all of my stuff including my weapon being spotless. Now, I am awarded the luxury of sitting on my ass and doing what I want. For example, my buddy Hays paid me 40 bucks to sit down in the laundry room and watch his stuff so that nobody stole it. Please and thank you!

Today I had to go to a few briefings that related to me going overseas. One of the briefings was on Anti-terrorism and how to keep ourselves safe despite not being stationed in a Hostile area such as Germany. Some of the stories that were told made me laugh because the guy made Germany out to be some third world country and also that almost everybody was out to kill me now that I am a soldier. Really? I mean, come on I understand being careful but just because I have a short haircut doesn’t automatically label me as a soldier in the eyes of civilians. I could be a soccer hooligan for example…lol. Afterwards we had a briefing about “trans” the cool military term that means transportation…anyways, more stupid questions were asked, some repeated numerous times, but it was all basically simple: Be where you need to be ready to fly on the date that is shown on your itinerary. Mine shows I leave the 26th to Frankfurt, Germany. Sweet. I also get to fly with some of my good friends too which is okay in my book.

Speaking of book, I am reading a great one currently. Yeah I actually have time to read, believe it or not! I went to the PX on Sunday and I was looking for some good reading material. Since we are only allowed to have military affiliated books, I was kind of limited. I grabbed a book that had big bright colored writing on it titled: “My War: Killing Time in Iraq” by Colby Buzzell. I briefly glanced at the cover and said, “What the hell?” and bought it. I started to read it and was really shocked. The book is about a guy who joins the army, goes to Iraq, and starts to blog to tell about his experiences. The weird thing is, this guy could be my twin brother. We are similar in almost every way when it comes to interests. We listen to the same virtually unknown punk bands, have similar tattoos, same sense of humor, both skate, etc… He even went to basic training here at Ft. Benning in the same battalion as me, only a few years ago. So, I have been completely submerged into this book, loving every minute of it. I would love to meet this guy one day. I mean, we both started a blog for the same reasons almost. Who knows, maybe I too could write a book some day.

We have a five mile run Friday, and other little things to take care of, but other than that I am taking it easy and waiting to get the Hell out of here. I got all new uniforms today too which is sweet. Also, don’t send me anymore mail, and its not to be mean or because I don’t want it, but because we are no longer receiving mail. Any mail that is sent to me will be automatically forwarded to Germany, so I wont get it for a while. That’s it for tonight!

-PFC Zaleuke

Thursday, October 1, 2009

September 27th, 2009

Hey everyone. It’s been a while since I’ve written, but I’ve been somewhat busy. I got back in last night from FTX around 11pm and I am exhausted. I am extremely proud to say that I am now an Infantry soldier, and I have my cross rifles in hand. FTX was long, tiring, and stressful but was nothing like I expected it to be. I wont bore you with all of the details, but I’ll tell you about it a little so you can get an idea.

We took busses to our location 15 miles away and walked to our campsite a mile or so away from wh ere we were dropped off. We set up camp in a small clearing deep in the woods, which was one of the Patrol bases I’ve told you about. We spent all five nights sleeping on the cold, wet, ant infested ground. We honestly did not train all that much, rather we walked almost non-stop. I think they told us we walked around 50 miles (with ruck sacks) total. One morning we had to get up and go on a three mile run which wasn’t too pleasant but oh well. We walked mostly always through the woods wherever we went and most of the time we had to make our own path through the thick Georgia brush. Numerous guys got heavy cases of poison ivy and insect bites from being out there, lol my friend Thomas has it all over his face. I don’t want to walk through the woods again for a while.

The squad leaders were all issued these old vintage radios to communicate with and the things were massive! Drill Sergeant “M” handed me mine and I said, “Do you have a bigger one or do you only have the small ones?” I was obviously being sarcastic and I got a good laugh out of him too LOL. He tried to explain how to work them, and I explained to him that I’ve seen Mel Gibson and Tom Hanks use them on numerous occasions but he wasn’t satisfied and insisted that I shut up and listen… lol. We had to pick call signs to use over the radio, but he immediately canceled that request and gave us call signs when he heard me say I wanted to be Night Hawk, and my buddy Tyler wanted to me George Clooney. (They never let us have fun here LOL).

The training we did do were things like reacting to contact, engaging enemies, and walking in squad formations. One of my favorite moments was when we were going to have to walk five miles or so through the woods, our Drill Sergeant called the squad leaders over to brief us. The woods we were walking through were adjacent to a dirt road which our Drill was going to walk on. I raised my hand to ask a smart ass question which was, “Would you enjoy some company while you walk (I.E., me)? Surprisingly he said, “Yeah Zaleuke, you walk with me.” So while everyone walked through woods, struggling, HA HA, I walked on the street casually talking and joking around with my Drill Sergeant . He really is a good guy, and I enjoyed talking with him.

Through the course of the time we were there, we were ambushed a few times in the middle of the night and had to open fire on them (squads and Drill Sergeants who had nothing better to do than to mess with us). We had grenades going off, heavy machines guns and so on. Its a great way to wake up in the middle of the night, let me tell you..  It was kind of fun though. The last day we were out in the field, we had to conduct our twelve mile final ruck march. Unlike our previous marches, we walked through the woods for the 12 miles rather than on the road. I barely noticed that I was tired or that my legs hurt or that my feet were bleeding because the only thing I cared about was finishing. We even had the privilege of walking up the infamous "Stairway to Heaven" which is a brutal steep road that seems to reach straight up into the sky.   We finally finished 2 miles away from our battalion, where we walked in the woods and sat down and were greeted with pizza and powerade. We rested for a few hours and then after getting smoked for no reason, we began our final march to Honor Hill. As we made our way up the street we were greeted by hundreds of soldiers who lined the streets with flash lights who were cheering and clapping for all of us as we marched pass. Simulator grenades and smoke grenades were going off everywhere as we sang cadences, and finally we passed through the gates of Honor Hill. To best describe what it was like, I can only compare the setting to the TV show “Survivor”. There were torches and bonfires everywhere. We formed up and stood there in the rain as we were inducted into the Infantry. We shook hands with each of our Drill Sergeants as they each said, “Welcome to the Infantry, Soldier”. I was awarded my cross rifles by one of my favorite Drill Sergeants who “gently” pushed the button onto my jacket which may or may not have pierced the skin. I can honestly say that was one of the proudest moments of my life. I did it. I accomplished what I set out to do, I made it. I did not miss one single day of training, and I was present for every smoke session and ass kicking that the Drill Sergeants dished out. I deserve this.

What comes next is that we lay low for a few days, clean out weapons and all of our gear before we turn it back in. I have 10 days and a wake-up before I see my family for the turning blue ceremony. I can’t wait. More soon.

-PFC Zaleuke